BOSTON — Claude Julien almost escaped the news conference unscathed, but the last question of his briefing after the morning skate finally broached the subject.
For the first time since Bruins captain Zdeno Chara hit Montreal forward Max Pacioretty into a stanchion at the Bell Centre on March 8, both players will be on the ice together Thursday night at the Garden.
"I'm surprised it took that long for that question to come out," Julien said when asked about the matchup with Pacioretty. "I can tell you honestly, the one thing that we're happy about, and that would be for anybody else, is that he's healthy. As a player in the league you don't want to see somebody end his career on an unfortunate accident. What you want to see is a player come back and be healthy, and as far as that's concerned, he's healthy. We've turned the page and now it's time to move on."
The Bruins insist they have moved on from the controversy, which included a criminal investigation of Chara in Quebec after the NHL chose not to discipline him for the hit.
"I thought it was over with," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. "Maybe with you guys it is [still an issue]. With us it's over. It's done. He's skating. He's played whatever, 10 games and he's obviously fine. As far as we're concerned, we've moved on."
Pacioretty missed the remainder of last season and the Canadiens' first-round playoff series against the Bruins, but he has shown no ill effects this season. He leads Montreal with 4-5-9 totals through nine games despite suffering a wrist injury on Monday. That injury didn't keep him out of the lineup on Wednesday, when he had two goals and an assist against Philadelphia, and it's not expected to keep him out of Thursday's rematch.
"He's doing well," Bruins forward Benoit Pouliot said. "I'm happy for Patch. He works so hard on the ice and off the ice. Things are falling in his hands right now and he's leading the teams in points right now I think. So good for Patch. I'm happy for him. He's just got to keep it going."
Pouliot played with Pacioretty last season in Montreal and was with the Canadiens when Pacioretty was injured. But Pouliot was quick to defend his new teammate's role in that unfortunate incident.
"I'm sure it's not something he wanted to do obviously," Pouliot said. "It was a vulnerable position for Patch and he got hurt. It's unfortunate it happened, but I think it's in the past. We didn't really talk about it. It's something people, maybe the fans anticipate something, but we're just playing our game. Big Zee is Big Zee. He's been awesome. So I don't think it's going to be big deal tonight. It's in the past now."
While the incident has lived on in the press and with the fans and even the police, but Pouliot denied that it has been a major topic of discussion for either team.
"When I was there [in Montreal] we really didn't talk about it that much," Pouliot said. "And down here since I've been here, we've never talked about it."
Chara did not speak to the media Thursday morning, while the Canadiens did not hold a morning skate or have any media availability after playing Wednesday night in Montreal.